The Huguenots and the Edict of Nantes 1598–1629

  • N. M. Sutherland

Abstract

My task is to provide a brief background survey of that Edict of Nantes whose ultimate revocation is the subject, or anyway the occasion, of this book. The history of the edict lies mainly between the years 1598, when it was signed, and 1629 when the Huguenots were confined to their sectarian capacity. This may sound like a well-worn subject. In fact much work remains to be done, and it is still highly controversial. I mean to pose, and to leave you with, some unanswered questions. In a wider sense, one could trace the origins of the edict from the first edict, of January 1562, which had permitted a degree of licensed coexistence. But the edict of January had failed to avert civil war and, similarly, the Edict of Nantes did not terminate the conflict. After the Peace of Alais in June 1629 there was a long coda, before the Revocation in 1685. It is perhaps partly this passage of time which explains the sense of outrage which the revocation has always aroused. Indignation is one thing, but should we really be surprised? Well before 1661 and the personal rule of Louis XIV, all the various elements of danger had drained from the issue, and it is true that the passage of time might have had a tranquillising effect. The tragedy was that those who suffered the revocation were quite unlike those who had persistently defied the king.

Keywords

Europe Assure Burial Defend Dispatch 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    E.I. Perry, From Theology to History: French Religious Controversy and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (The Hague, 1973) p. 9.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    P. Blet, Le Clergé de France et la Monarchie, 2 vols (Rome, 1959) vol. I, pp.378–9.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    The Edict of Nantes was indeed so described in 1610. E. Benoist, Histoire de l’Edict de Nantes 5 vols (Delft, 1693–5) vol. ii, recueil, pp. 3–5.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    This process is traced in N. M. Sutherland, ‘The Edit of Nantes and the Protestant State’, Annali della Fondazione italiana per la storia amministrativa, 2 (1965) pp. 199–236.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    It was based on the edicts of pacification which are analysed in N. M. Sutherland, The Huguenot Struggle for Recognition (New Haven and London, 1980) pp. 333–72. The edicts are printed, without that of Nantes, in André Stegmann, Edits des guerres de religion (Paris, 1979).Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    The text of the Edict of Nantes is most readily available in Roland Mousnier, L’Assassinat de Henri IV (Paris, 1964) pp. 294 ff.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    M. Mullet, The Counter Reformation, (Lancaster pamphlets, London, 1984) p. 34, expressed the surprising opinion that the edict ‘weakened the traditional role of the Catholic Church in France’.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    See, for example, W. J. Stankiewicz, Politics and Religion in Seventeenth Century France (Westport, Connecticut, 1976) p. 63Google Scholar
  9. A. D. Lublinskaya, French Absolutism: the Crucial Phase, 1620–1629 (Cambridge, 1968) p. 156Google Scholar
  10. M. Greengrass, France in the Age of Henri IV (London, 1984) p. 78 mentions the ‘political status’ of the Huguenots, while also indicating that political assemblies were bannedGoogle Scholar
  11. V.-L. Tapié, France in the Age of Louis XIII and Richelieu (Cambridge, 1984) p. 201, mentions the abolition of political privileges in 1629.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    L. Anquez, Histoire des assemblées politiques des réformés de France 1573–1622 (Paris, 1859) pp. 160–6, indicates four categories: places de sûreté, places de marriages, villes libres royales and places particulières.Google Scholar
  13. 25.
    The Spanish marriages project dated from Henri’s reign, but was mooted for different reasons at different times and did not cause alarm until after Henri’s death. See F.-T. Perrens, Les Marriages espagnols (Paris, 1869).Google Scholar
  14. 27.
    L. Anquez, Un Nouveau chapitre de l’histoire politique des réformés de France 1621–1626 (Paris, 1865) p. 25.Google Scholar
  15. 37.
    J. A. Clarke, Huguenot Warrior: The Life and Times of Henri de Rohan 1579–1638 (The Hague, 1966) pp. 38–46; Anquez, Histoire des assemblées, pp. 255–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 38.
    On the estates general see M. J. Hayden, France and the Estates General of 1614 (Cambridge, 1974).Google Scholar
  17. 50.
    On the whole question of La Rochelle, see D. Parker, La Rochelle and the French Monarchy (London, 1980).Google Scholar
  18. 53.
    This is based on a well-known passage in Richelieu’s Political Testament. H. B. Hill (ed.) The Political Testament of Cardinal Richelieu (Madison, 1961) p. 11. Tapié, France in the Age of Louis XIII, (edn 1984) pp. 140–1, points out that the celebrated passage has been the starting-point for a disastrous scholastic tradition.Google Scholar
  19. 57.
    The peace of La Rochelle concerned only La Rochelle for which it was very harsh. This shows the government to have been in a strong position. By the Peace of Paris Rohan received confirmation of certain stale articles and no formal treaty at all. Clarke, Huguenot Warrior, p. 134; P. Grillon, Les Papiers de Richelieu, vol. I, 1624–6 (Paris, 1975) pp. 287–8.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. M. Sutherland

There are no affiliations available

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